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>> today on face the nation, game on. after waiting for months for republicans to pick president obama's opponent, the white house decided to start the general election campaign anyway and did it with a double barreled attack. >> if some of these folks were around when columbus set sail, they must have been founding members of the flat earth society. they would not have believed that the world was round. >> president obama was right and they were dead wrong. >> reporter: republicans fired back... at each other. mitt romney, the republican with the most delegates, finished behind rick santorum and newt gingrich in mississippi and alabama. >> if you're the frontrunner and you keep coming in third, you're not much of a frontrunner. >> reporter: but by romney's new math, there is no way santorum
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or gingrich can get enough delegates to secure the nomination. he wants them to quit. but one analyst said "not so fast." >> the closer mitt gets to that magical number of 1,144 delegates, the more leverage he has at a hypothetical brokered convention. however... however, you know, if rumors of a santorum-gingrich super ticket prove true, well, we're in for a hot time in tampa. >> reporter: hey, it's already hot. >> hot sauce. got to be hot. >> reporter: we'll try to keep the heat on as we get the latest from the president's top strategist david axelrod; republican national chairman reince preibus; former republican party chair and romney supporter ed gillespie; "fox news" contributor rich lowrie and our own norah o'donnell. after all, this is "face the nation." captioning sponsored by cbs
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from cbs news in washington, "face the nation" with bob schieffer. >> schieffer: good morning again. welcome to "face the nation." david axelrod is the president's chief campaign strategist. he joins us from chicago. welcome, mr. axelrod. let me start with this. as the price of gas has gone up, the president's approval ratings have gone down. but when the republicans started pummeling the president about this, he sort of poked fun at them. here's what he said last week. >> they tell the same story. they head down to the gas station. they make sure a few cameras are following them. and then, they start acting like "we have a magic wand and we will give you cheap gas forever, if you just elect us." every time. been the same script for 30 years.
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it's like a bad rerun. ( laughter ) >> schieffer: but here's the irony, mr. axelrod. it is like a rerun because this is what candidate obama said about george bush four years ago. >> all the while, while here in ohio, you're paying nearly $3.70 a gallon for gas, two-and-a-half times what it cost when george bush took office. >> schieffer: what about that? what is the strategy? is the price coming down? do you have a plan to do that? i mean, in the short run? >> well, first of all, i'm interested to hear that clip because in june of 2008, the price of gas was $4.10 a gallon. what it underscores is the fact that we're in a global oil market. when we're dependent solely on oil, we're affected by the rate shocks again and again and again. what he said then, what the president said then and what he's enacted during this administration is that we need
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a... an "all of the above" policy so we can break this dependence on oil. so yes, we need to produce more oil domestically. we're up 12% since he's been president. we're producing more than at any time in eight or nine years. but we also... and we're producing more gas than ever before. but we also have to explore other things: renewable energy. we've doubled the use of renewable energy, wind and solar, biofuels. we have to save more. he's increased fuel efficiency standards for the first time in three decades in conjunction with the auto industry. that's saving a million barrels of oil a day when they're fully implemented. 2.2 million barrels of oil a day. the notion that we can simply drill our way out of this, or that somehow that if we say that, that the gas prices will go down magically now. newt gingrich's "$2.50 a gallon." that's not oil talk, but snake oil talk, and the american people know the difference.
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>> schieffer: mitt romney said as late as yesterday that the president actually wanted gas prices to go up when he was running for president. he also said that the president should fire his three top energy people because they were trying to get the price up. what's that about? >> well, i think it's about nonsense is what it's about. obviously, you heard the president four years ago. he wasn't advocating higher gas prices. again, we have to have a national strategy for getting control of our energy future. that involves persistence, not just in increasing domestic oil and gas production. we've freed up tens of millions of new acres for exploration and for oil production in the future. but we have to explore these other avenues. if we don't do all of those things, we're going to be right back here again every election season. and politicians like mr. romney will pander, and the poor american consumer will be left in the same position.
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so we need to keep going forward with an "all of the above" strategy on energy. >> schieffer: was it a mistake now, in retrospect, to stop that keystone pipeline project? they were going to bring a pipeline to bring the oil down to the gulf coast from canada. that put a lot of people to work, amongst other things. do you have regrets about not moving along with that? >> first of all, bob, you should direct that question to mr. priebus and to the republican leadership in the congress, because what they did was force a premature decision on this. the state department said they needed more time to evaluate the project, and all of its implications including what it would mean for the water aquifers in nebraska. and the congress wanted to force a decision for political reasons. they did. not having the time to make a proper decision, they had to decline this proposal. if it's resubmitted, it will be considered again.
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hopefully, in the time frame that is appropriate. but understand this president has approved dozens of pipelines. he's going to speak this week about another... a spur from oklahoma to the gulf so we can relieve a glut of oil that we have and get it down to refineries there. so he certainly is not hostile to transporting oil, but we have to do it in the appropriate way and protect the public safety in doing it. no, it may have been a mistake for the republicans to force the decision so quickly. that i agree with. but that's their decision to explain, not ours. >> schieffer: you know, it seems like that you all were waiting for the republicans to pick a nominee before you actually started to kick off the general election campaign. but i got the sense last week you were tired of waiting, and you decided to just go ahead when the president and the vice president went out there and made some pretty strong attacks. do you have any idea who you think you're going to be running against yet?
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>> no, i don't. you should address that to your next guest. we thought we'd have a nominee by now. every time it looks like mr. romney has some momentum, he gets set back. he hasn't been able to make the sale to his own party. you know, here in illinois, we have a primary on tuesday. he's outspending rick santorum 7-to-1. yet the polls are pretty narrowly in his favor right now. i think the republican party is having a hard time picking a nominee. i will say this, bob. i do watch him parading around the state calling himself an "economic heavyweight." it's the same pitch he made in 2002 to the people in massachusetts. what happened? massachusetts went from 10th in the nation in job creation to 47th. their debt went up 16.5%. government jobs grew at six times the rate of private sector jobs. if he thinks he's an economic heavyweight, he must be looking in a funhouse mirror because
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that is not the record of an economic heavyweight. >> schieffer: all right. mr. axelrod, we thank you for that. and mr. priebus is right here. and today is his birthday. we want to wish you a happy birthday. >> thank you, bob. i think david's living in a permanent funhouse mirror myself. anyway, go ahead, bob. >> schieffer: why? >> well, i mean he's defending a president, i mean, initially you talked about gas prices. he's defending a president that where gas prices were $1.85 a gallon when he took over. he defends the president's position. when the president's own energy czar said-- and this is undisputed-- that he wanted gas prices to go to european levels. so we could all be forced... >> schieffer: when was this? >> uh... years ago. so we could be forced to drive, you know, battery-operated cars and scooters around. he's back-pedaled on that statement. but very quickly, the obama administration's finding itself in a whole lot of trouble
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because once again we've got a president who says one thing and then he does another. in any event, i think that when it comes to gas prices, this president has taken our country completely backwards. this idea that david axelrod is spinning that now we've got record production, we've got record production because of the actions of george w. bush and bill clinton years ago. because it takes time. well, this president has shut down on-shore drilling. he's shut down off-shore drilling. he's shut down keystone. so now we're sitting in a place where we're no better off today than where we were three years ago. we've got a president that's now coming back on the campaign trail again talking about an "all of the above" energy policy. >> schieffer: what about mr. axelrod's assertion that it's your fault that the keystone thing got killed because you tried to force an early decision. >> i think myself and everyone in the studio chuckled all about at the same time when he said that. look, the republicans have been
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in favor of this keystone pipeline-- 20,000 jobs. if there was ever such a thing as shovel-ready projects, here was one of them plus it would get us a step closer to energy independence. it wouldn't be the whole deal. but it's a step closer. this president has shut down everything when it comes to energy independence in this country. we're sitting on a wealth of energy to get us to a place where we don't have $4 and $5 gas. this president isn't there. he's talking out of both sides of his mouth. >> schieffer: "new york times" reports this morning that behind the scenes, strategists are starting to look into the possibility of what if this thing, your race for the nomination, goes all the way to the convention. what are you doing? >> (laughing) you mean in preparation for that. >> schieffer: yes. >> first of all, i don't see that happening. one of these four candidates will be our nominee. i think we're halfway through the nomination process, bob. we're only at half time. i think that this process is going to play itself out. we will have a nominee. i think fairly soon.
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one, two months away. then we're going to be prepared for tampa. look, i mean, everyone watching this program knows-- and you and i would probably agree-- a month is like a year. and a week is like a month and a day is like a week. when we get to june, july, august, september, we're going to have an eternity to debate who is going to be the next president. >> schieffer: are you saying though that you're not making plans in any way, shape, or form for this to go all the way to the convention? >> we're not making plans for a brokered convention. the up side is we have rules to handle any possibility. obviously, we're going to follow those rules. but right now, what we're talking about is how who is going to be our nominee and what did the president promise to the american people and what he delivered. do you remember four years ago howard dean and chris dodd, two former chairmen of the dnc, were saying in headline after headline, look-- and i've got them all here in front of me-- that the democratic process is killing our chances.
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our nominee won't be worth anything because hillary clinton and barack obama are fighting each other tooth and nail. guess what, a tough primary, a little bit of drama actually helped barack obama. now we're suffering the consequences of that. >> schieffer: and others have said that. but john mccain is the only republican i've heard to say on camera what some other republicans have said to me off camera. that is, the longer this thing goes on, the harder it's going to be for us to win. >> i love john mccain, but john mccain's old former advisors during the '08 race were also saying that the democratic race is helping john mccain. look what happened four years ago. we put america to sleep with our... with our primary four years ago. barack obama and hillary clinton nearly gouged each other's eyes out. what happened? he won. look at all those governors from wisconsin to ohio to michigan to pennsylvania. primaries make candidates
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stronger. it forces the media to talk about our candidates. it keeps the focus on barack obama which is what at the end of the day this election is going to be about. it will be a referendum on whether people are better off today than they were three or four years ago, which they're not. and it will be a referendum on whether barack obama is a man of his word and fulfills the promises that he makes to the american people. >> schieffer: do you really mean that john mccain put the voters to sleep? >> no, i think our process did. i think our process did. we had no drama at all. we were lockstep in the middle of march. we had our nominee. all of the excitement, all of the energy was on hillary clinton and barack obama. remember, hillary clinton, if we forget, which we always forget history very quickly-- won pennsylvania... she won pennsylvania on april 22. hillary clinton. here we are in the middle of march. i just reject this idea of... >> schieffer: one question. do you think it would be better if newt gingrich dropped out?
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>> i'm not going to be the referee for these guys. they'll have to decide for themselves. what's most important is that we elect a president that can not just give a speech, but can make a promise and keep a promise. and right now the american people know we're on the wrong track and we need a different president. >> schieffer: thank you so much, mr. chairman. >> you bet. >> schieffer: we'll be right back with our political round table in a minute.
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>> schieffer: welcome back now. ed gillespie is now a top strategist. rich lowrie is a busy man. he gets paychecks from fox news as a contributor, from "time" magazine as a columnist and he finds time to be editor of the "national review." >> when are you going to start paying me, bob? >> schieffer: (laughing) we're also joined by our own
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norah o'donnell, who does this on a voluntary basis. she's such a good citizen. ed, let me ask you this question. "new york times," big story on the front page today says reince preibus says not so, but i have a feeling there are people that are behind the scenes planning for this thing going all the way to the convention. do you think that's going to happen? >> i don't think it's going to happen. i do think that our process is different this year than it has been in the past. we have this proportional delegate allocation. you have the super pacs, you know, playing a role that we haven't ever seen in primaries before. it is stretching it out. but my sense is, bob, that at the end of the day, someone is going to wrap up the nomination. i think the likely nominee is mitt romney. i support governor romney. i voted for him in the virginia primary. i think when you look at the numbers, he's likely to prevail. >> schieffer: do you have any regrets now looking back? michael steele, the previous rnc chairman, who was the one who changed this to proportional, which means if you win a primary you don't get all the delegates. you get a number and percentage to the amount of votes that you got. do you think it would be better to go back to the old way? >> you know, the grass is always
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greener. the fact is, for a long time, republicans said we have a process that allows a frontrunner to wrap up too soon. we're done by march. we need a longer process that allows for people to rise and challenge the frontrunner. that's what we have now. i do think that whoever emerges at the end of the day-- again i think it will be governor romney-- will be stronger as a result of that process. but there's no doubt there are a lot of folks saying, boy, i wish we had a nominee who could take the case to president obama. there is some second-guessing. but i actually think that this process is going to be good for us. >> schieffer: rich, let me ask you the question that i asked reince preibus just now. would it be best if newt gingrich just got out? you have actually written about that. >> i have a column in "time" this week about this. i think he doesn't have a rationale anymore. he's not even a regional candidate. he's a sub-regional candidate. his geographic base seems to be the border between south carolina and georgia, the two states he's won. now there's some debate about who he would actually help if he got out.
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some polls say his vote would split both ways been santorum and romney. santorum people don't believe that. if you look at the results in alabama and mississippi, santorum's win came directly out of the hide of newt gingrich. i think santorum has outclassed and beaten newt gingrich and deserves a chance at the clean shot at romney. >> there's one issue, though. that is that the republicans are making the case that this is like 2008 with hillary clinton- barack obama. you heard reince preibus say "we put people to sleep." this has not excited the republican base. turnout is down in the republican primaries. and a well respected republican pollster has said this process has had a corrosive affect on the nominees. mitt romney has very high unfavorables, higher than any other recent nominee other than bill clinton, so it has taken its toll on the republicans. on the flip side, president obama is looking at a very difficult re-election with unemployment still at 8%, and a lot of people feeling pain because of rising gas prices. but the republicans are
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struggling. i think it's not fair to say that they've excited people. >> schieffer: what about that, rich? >> well, i don't know whether it's the process or it's mitt romney. i think he's a weak frontrunner. i think he is inherently kind of the default candidate in this process. he has to take down the other guys in order for himself to pop up. i think that's one of the reasons he had trouble down in alabama and mississippi. part of which was just demographic and geographic, but he really needs to keep his boot on the neck of whoever is in second place. he did it with perry. he did it with newt. he needs to keep doing it with santorum. it's not a particularly uplifting way to win the nomination, but i think it's inevitably... >> schieffer: what's worked is negative advertising for him. in contest after contest. but what about that, ed? you're a romney man here. why is he having such a hard time connecting with the republican party. >> the fact is that the super- pacs are new to the primary process. they're new to the general election process. they are inherently more negative.
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they run more negative ads. they run almost solely negative ads. that does have a depressing effect, in terms of turnout in republican primary parties. i don't think the damage is permanent. once there's a nominee, the dynamic changes overnight. it becomes a one on one race with president obama. this is a referendum. >> schieffer: norah, one quick comment. >> i think that's absolutely true. once mitt romney presumably becomes the nominee, the fight will be joined. there will be a very clear contrast between the two candidates. we'll see every day something on the economy. energy, all the major issues put before the american voters. >> schieffer: i will say i've never seen anything like this one, and i've been around here for a long time. back in a moment with some final thoughts.
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>> schieffer: if there is one constant in american politics, it's this-- the price of gasoline is one of the most potent of all political issues. when we fill 'er up, the price stairs us in the face right there on the gas gauge. gas prices hinge on many factors, some of which presidents can influence; some of which they can't. china's gigantic need for more and more oil, turmoil in the middle east, even the weather to name three that the president can't control. nevertheless, every candidate running for president blames the previous president if gas prices have gone up. candidate obama blamed george bush just as republicans are now blaming president obama, which is why i found a story in yesterday's "new york times" so interesting. russia is a different place, but the story reminded us just how different. to get elected, russia's newly installed president putin made a lot of expensive campaign promises-- big raises and fatter pensions for doctors, lawyers and the military. even bonuses for having more children.
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we know about campaign promises. but here's what's different. russia gets half its revenue from taxes on oil and gas. what putin didn't tell the people is that the to pay for all his promises, he has to drive the price of oil up to $150 a barrel. that's $30 more than the current price, which made me wonder. if energy prices go down in russia, will the next russian candidate blame president putin? now, there is a bumper sticker for you. back in a minute.
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>> schieffer: thank you for watching. i'll be away next week but norah o'donnell will be here for the whole show. i hope you'll join her.
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Face the Nation
CBS March 18, 2012 8:30am-9:00am PDT

News/Business. News interviews with distinguished national and foreign figures. New. (CC) (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY Us 6, Newt Gingrich 6, Santorum 6, John Mccain 5, Russia 4, Schieffer 4, Mr. Axelrod 4, Barack Obama 4, Obama 3, Pennsylvania 3, Norah O'donnell 3, Clinton 3, David Axelrod 3, Alabama 3, Mississippi 2, Massachusetts 2, New York 2, Gillespie 2, Mr. Romney 2, Mr. Priebus 2
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on 3/18/2012